Man beats child porn charges

Ver­non man ac­quit­ted after judge rules search war­rants were in­valid — but he still faces mul­ti­ple ar­son charges

The Daily Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By AN­DREA PEA­COCK

A Ver­non man ac­cused of com­mit­ting more than a dozen ar­sons in 2014 has been ac­quit­ted of child pornog­ra­phy charges after a judge ruled two search war­rants used by po­lice were in­valid.

In June 2016, Wil­liam Mur­ray Phelps Mun­ton and co-ac­cused Jor­dan Hol­croft were ar­rested in con­nec­tion with a se­ries of ar­sons in the North Okana­gan be­tween March and Novem­ber 2014.

Fol­low­ing the ar­rests, Moun­ties con­ducted two searches, both of which Mun­ton ar­gued were in­valid.

The war­rant for the first search per­tained to Mun­ton’s res­i­dence.

Among the items seized were a Rub­ber­maid con­tainer, fire-start­ing bricks, a drone, com­put­ers, com­puter data, and elec­tronic stor­age de­vices in­clud­ing CDs and mem­ory sticks.

A sec­ond search war­rant per­mit­ted po­lice to search Mun­ton’s and Hol­croft’s cell­phones, a mem­ory card and an HP com­puter.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors said they had rea­son to be­lieve there would be im­ages of the ar­sons on the cell­phones and the com­put­ers.

Po­lice al­legedly found child pornog­ra­phy on the HP com­puter, which led to Mun­ton be­ing charged with two counts of mak­ing child pornog­ra­phy and one count of pos­sess­ing child pornog­ra­phy.

For a war­rant to be is­sued for the com­puter, there needed to be cred­i­ble ev­i­dence that im­ages of the ar­son would be found on the de­vice, Jus­tice Hope Hys­lop wrote in her de­ci­sion last week.

Mun­ton ar­gued po­lice had no ba­sis to be­lieve any ev­i­dence of the ar­sons would still ex­ist in his home at the time of the war­rants in June 2016, and that it was “com­plete spec­u­la­tion” to be­lieve any of the ev­i­dence of the of­fences would be found on the com­put­ers.

Hys­lop agreed, say­ing there was no ev­i­dence any pho­to­graphs were taken of the fires, un­der­min­ing the po­lice the­ory that im­ages would be stored on the com­puter.

Hys­lop con­cluded both the war­rants were in­valid and the searches were un­rea­son­able and in vi­o­la­tion of Mun­ton’s char­ter rights.

“(Mun­ton)’s rights were breached as his home was searched, his phone and HP were searched by an in­valid search war­rant,” wrote Hys­lop. “All these are ar­eas a per­son can ex­pect a high de­gree of pri­vacy.”

Both searches are now con­sid­ered war­rant­less, said Hys­lop.

“With­out the ev­i­dence from the HP and per­haps other data stored on elec­tronic de­vices, the Crown’s case was gut­ted,” she said. “As a re­sult, (Mun­ton) was ac­quit­ted on the child pornog­ra­phy charges.”

In this case, the po­lice did not pur­posely mis­lead the judge who is­sued the search war­rants, nor was there a lack of rea­son­able grounds for the search war­rants to be is­sued, wrote Hys­lop.

“What oc­curred here was a fail­ure to ar­tic­u­late the grounds clearly.”

Mun­ton is still fac­ing 19 ar­son charges and is ex­pected to go to trial this year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.